No matter how bland and banal they may look, they do have the power to destroy your life—to declare the house you just built as in violation of EPA wetland regulations, to pull your kid’s school placement, to define your medical coverage out of existence. So by all means attention must be paid and faces seen.
I watched at home and thought: They hate it. They being the people, whom we’re now supposed to refer to as the folks. But you look at the polls at how people view Washington—one, in October, had almost 9 in 10 disapproving—and you watch a kabuki-like event like this and you know the distance, the psychic, emotional and experiential distance, between Washington and America, between the people and their federal government, is not only real but, actually, carries dangers. History will make more of the distance than we do. Someday in the future we will see it most vividly when a truly bad thing happens and the people suddenly need to trust what Washington says, and will not, to everyone’s loss.
In the country, the president’s popularity is underwater. In the District of Columbia itself, as Gallup notes, it’s at 81%. The Washington area is now the wealthiest in the nation. No matter how bad the hinterlands do, it’s good for government and those who live off it. The country is well aware. It is no accident that in the national imagination Washington is the shallow and corrupt capital in “The Hunger Games,” the celebrity-clogged White House Correspondents’ Dinner, “Scandal” and the green room at MSNBC. It is the chattering capital of a nation it less represents than dominates.